What Action on Climate Change Would Romney Support?

Conor Friedersdorf argues this morning at The Atlantic that the right and its talk radio hosts are not doing conservatives any favors by pushing the conversation on climate in a way that will allow only conservative candidates who disavow climate change to get the nomination. (Rick Santorum argues a leftist conspiracy is using a happenstance trend in weather patterns to push government regulation.) Instead, Friedersdorf proposes that Republicans look for a message that would marshal "the biggest anti-carbon-tax, anti-cap-and-trade-alliance," and, at the very least, push Mitt Romney to disavow any interest in a carbon tax.

But given that Romney, the front-runner for the moment, does believe in climate change, wouldn't it also be useful to know what he is for, instead of only what he is against? He said last week that he thinks "it is important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases." How does he propose to do that? He's said some nice things about the potential of alternative energy. What role will that play in his energy policy? How will he approach the EPA's legal mandate to regulate carbon under the Clean Air Act? Right now, voters know next to nothing about his stances on these issues. His campaign website does not mention carbon or climate change once.

Democrats haven't offered any great ideas on climate change lately, but at least we know that they're willing to let the EPA do its job (for now), that they're keen on natural gas, and that they want to encourage alternative energy research and investment. On this issue, most of the Republican Party seems content to be simply anti-everything, a convenient stance for candidates willing to question climate change. No need to form a policy! But even in the case of a candidate like Rick Santorum, I'd like to know what he plans to do as president on climate questions in foreign policy. Would he, for instance, take the U.S. out of the U.N. climate talks altogether?